Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Oprah, Brian, and Keeping Your Sandals On

   There's a book out now that intrigues me. I don't know if it's enough to part with the shiekels to buy it, but it intrigues me.
    A Chicago area yoga teacher spent a year watching Oprah Winfrey's show and reading her magazine. Her question: if she followed the advice, if she bought what had been blessed by the Queen of Talk's mention, would the author be any happier?
     The answer seems "not really." Living Oprah is the chronicle of the experience. The author (whose name escapes me) seemed to have a pretty good life already. Based on the reviews, it sounded as if some of what was touted was silly and expensive at best (i.e. leopard print flats, a specific brand of highlighter to use for reading a specific book) and potentially detrimental at worst (i.e. communicating with her husband a la expert of the week and interrupting the flow of intimacy by insisting on taking a shower first).  The whole thing smacks of junior high when you had to have the right jeans, the same pencils as the popular girls or risk being tormented by the mean ones.
     Even more disquieting is the continuation of the band-aid mentality, that if you buy the right highlighter or read the right book because the popular girl with the seemingly perfect life has influenced you, all will be well in your world. Sorry, dear ones; it just doesn't work like that. If one chooses to model or pattern one's life after another instead of sitting with the difficult questions of what would really bring fulfillment, the illusion of contentment would fade in time. It's too easy to fall into that trap rather than bring forth the effort to create the sustaining satisfaction and inner peace that comes from determining the best course of action for yourself.
     Please don't get me wrong. I have a ton of respect for Ms. Winfrey, even though the last time I watched her show deliberately was probably five years ago when Sting touted his memoirs. It takes a lot to go from a childhood as impoverished and disturbing as hers to one of the wealthiest women in the world, and one who has championed personal growth and healing.
    While much of her empire is devoted to the good, I found my thoughts turning to "Monty Python's Life of Brian" as I contemplated the book. It drew fire and still does, even though it has nothing to do with ridiculing Christianity as some who haven't seen it think it does. Brian Cohen was born the same day as Jesus was in the manger next to him. Would be followers kept confusing the two, despite Brian's frequent protestations that he was neither a prophet nor the Messiah. One scene involved him running down the street to escape a band of rabid followers. He lost a sandal. In a flurry of shouts, the mob all removed one sandal, commenting on his wisdom in doing so while the chase continued.
     Sandals back then offered little protection from the sharp stones and pottery shards and other hazards lining the roads of those times. What would happen if we learned to content ourselves with the ones we have, to see the beauty in each pair, rather than thinking the other woman's would fit us better?

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